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Atlanta Motor Speedway: NAPA 500 Testing Notes

6 November 1997

The following is provided courtesy of Atlanta Motor Speedway.

November 4, 1997            


    HAMPTON, Ga. -- If such talented young drivers as Jeff Gordon, Jeff 
Burton and Bobby Labonte appear to be the future of NASCAR Winston Cup 
racing, they had better make room at the top-if today's NAPA 500 testing 
session at Atlanta Motor Speedway is any indication.

    The three fastest drivers-Tim Steele, Todd Bodine and Buckshot 
Jones-haven't even been regulars on the Winston Cup circuit this year. And 
Jones, a 26 year old University of Georgia graduate from Tucker, Ga., 
hopes to earn his first Winston Cup start when the world's best race drivers 
line up for qualifying on MasterCard/MBNA Pole Day on Friday November 14.

    "We're as quick as anybody," said Steele, who has 12 Automobile Racing 
Club of America Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series victories this season, including his 
record-setting third at Atlanta Motor Speedway. "It's almost too good to be 
true. I can't believe how great everything is going."

    Steele was clocked at 192.166 mph in a Ford prepared by legendary car 
owner Bud Moore, who is planning to return to the Winston Cup circuit in the 
NAPA 500 on Sunday November 16 with Steele behind the wheel.

    "Working with Bud is great," Steele added. "There are some pretty good 
cars here to judge my speed by, so I'm thrilled-unless they're just messing 
with us."

    Bodine, who lost a season-long battle with Randy LaJoie for the NASCAR 
Busch Series title, was clocked at 191.635 mph in a Pontiac, and he indicated 
he can go faster.

    "We still haven't done any 'Go fast' things," he said. "We're working on 
raceability, trying to make the car drive well and feel comfortable. Stay 
tuned. There's more speed left in this car."

    As with Jones' Pontiac. 

    "The more I run, the more confident I get," said Jones, a star on the 
Busch Series who was timed in 190.843 mph. "We ran some pretty good laps. I 
tried to go faster and got uncomfortable going through turns one and two. 
Once we get the setup down, we'll get faster. I just don't want to risk the 
car right now."

    Before anyone concedes the NAPA 500 to "Generation X" drivers, however, 
watch out for Darrell Waltrip. The 50-year-old three-time Winston Cup 
champion was right on the heels of the young lions with a clocking of 190.058 
    "I'm bad to the bone," said Waltrip, whose 84 victories lead all active 
drivers. "I'm tickled to death with the race track. I'd heard horror 
stories, but it's just very smooth. It's fast, but it was fast before. The
tires have got so much grip. Simply repaving the track this well has made it

    Wallace, the 1989 Winston Cup champion, echoed Waltrip's sentiments 
about the transformation from a 1.522-mile oval to a 1.54-mile quad-oval and 
the increased speeds that could result in most of the cars that qualify on
MasterCard/MBNA Pole Day eclipsing Robby Gordon's track record of 186.507 
mph set last March.

    "Everybody's talking about how fast it is. Big deal! It's fast because 
it's so smooth and so comfortable to run that fast," Wallace said. "Nobody 
should be complaining about anything. Five miles an hour faster? Heck, I can 
walk faster than five miles an hour."

HAMPTON, GA  -- Practice times for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, 
Ps.No.  Driver                 Sponsor                   Make Lap Time M.P.H.
-- ---- ----------------------------------------------------- -------- -------
 1  15  Tim Steele             Bud Moore Eng.            Ford 0:28.850 192.166
 2  35  Todd Bodine            Tabasco                   Pont 0:28.930 191.635
 3  00  Roy Jones              Aquafresh                 Pont 0:29.050 190.843
 4  17  Darrell Waltrip        Western Auto              Chev 0:29.170 190.058
 5   2  Rusty Wallace          Miller Lite               Ford 0:29.230 189.668
 6   5  Terry Labonte          Kellogg's Corn Flakes     Chev 0:29.240 189.603
 7  90  Dick Trickle           Heilig-Meyers/Simmons     Ford 0:29.271 189.404
 8  41  Steve Grissom          Kodiak                    Chev 0:29.310 189.150
 9  22  Ward Burton            MBNA                      Pont 0:29.320 189.086
10  91  Kevin Lepage           Pionite                   Chev 0:29.330 189.021
11  10  Ricky Rudd             Tide                      Ford 0:29.670 186.855
12  95  Ed Berrier             Feed the Children         Ford 0:30.060 184.431
13  77  Robert Pressley        Jasper Engines            Ford 0:30.210 183.515
14  ??  Mike Miller            unknown series & sponsor  Chev 0:31.170 177.863

Unknown at this time if the 15 car has sponsorship.

Track Length      :  1.5400 Miles